THE ANNUAL Chocolate Festival hosted by SM City Davao, which was suspended in the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, is back this weekend and has been expanded to the six other SM shopping malls across Mindanao.
“Since we missed out the two years without activating chocolate festival, we are not only activating this one in SM City Davao but also SM malls in Mindanao,” Jonathan Nick D. Santos, regional operations manager of SM Supermalls, said during this week’s Kapehan sa Dabaw.
Growers, chocolatiers and entrepreneurs from across the southern Philippine island will be showcasing their products in what is now called the Cacao Mindanao Chocolate Fair.
“Right now, we have participants coming from Region 12 (Soccsksargen), General Santos (City), Zamboanga City, Cagayan de Oro, and Butuan City. Most cacao growers in these regions are even more excited than us here because we have been doing this for a while… we are very happy to support this endeavor,” Mr. Santos said.
The first Davao Chocolate Festival was held in 2014 in support of the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, Inc. (CIDAMI).
In May last year, Republic Act 11547 was signed declaring Davao Region as the Cacao Capital of the Philippines while Davao City as the Chocolate Capital. The region has maintained its position as the biggest cacao producer in the country, accounting for about 80% of annual output, based on government data.
In 2020, CIDAMI President Val D. Turtur said pandemic-related restrictions did not affect production but limited their local and international markets.
“There is no market outside Davao City, especially for chocolate makers,” he said in a September 2020 interview.
The festival’s revival this year, Mr. Turtur said, is an opportunity to celebrate the law recognizing Davao as industry leader and reinvigorate the development of cacao as a high-value export commodity.
“We are thankful that SM Supermalls led by SM City Davao initiated this to restore the vitality of our cacao industry,” Mr. Turtur said at the forum.
Mr. Santos said they intend to sustain the Mindanao-wide festival in the future.
The Cacao Mindanao Chocolate Fair, set May 27 to 29, is in partnership with the CIDAMI, the Davao regional offices of the Department of Agriculture and Department of Trade and Industry, and the Davao City government. — Maya M. Padillo